It is time for Action Movie Friday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!
Title: Shrek Forever After
MPAA Rating: PG
Genre: animated, action, comedy, fantasy
Starring: Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonia Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, John Hamm, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson
Director: Mike Mitchell
Writer: Josh Klausner, Darren Lemke, William Steig (Book)
Budget: $165 Million
Box Office: $756 Million
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 58%
After a year of marital bliss, Shrek misses the good olde days, when he was a ‘real ogre’ before Fiona. He makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin in order to have that life back for one more day. Except, he didn’t read the fine print. No one remembers him, not even his best friend Donkey or his wife Fiona. Far, Far Away has been taken over by Rumpelstiltskin and Shrek has twenty four hours to find true love again or else he’s doomed to disappear, forever.
Shrek Forever After. Oh God. This movie.
Shrek 3, in my opinion, is where the franchise started to go off the rails. Shrek Forever After is where, in my opinion, it completely derailed. Thank goodness that, thus far, it’s the last one of the franchise. If you’ve read my prior reviews of the Shrek franchise, you’ll know that Shrek started out as a good parody of all things fantasy (and Disney) based in William Steig’s book. Turns out Dreamworks lampooning their rival Disney really paid dividends and started an entire movement of deconstructing and retelling fairy tales in modern popular culture. Everything from books to television shows started retelling old tales and twisting them up and around and into pretzels.
Shrek 3 left Shrek and Fiona in a decent place. They were back in the swamp (where Shrek feels the most comfortable) and raising their children. Shrek Forever After picks up right where we left off and fast forwards through a year of ogre family life. (In which it appears no one has heard of date night, babysitting or that there’s more than one fairy tale?) Shrek starts feeling so cramped by the happy family lifestyle, that he ends up making a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to be an Ogre for a Day. In return, Rumple wants payment, a day from Shrek’s life. This has disastrous consequences, at least for Shrek and the citizens of Far, Far Away.
According to the creators, this movie is supposed to represent a crisis in Shrek and Fiona’s marriage and they even talked to marriage counselors to figure out how Shrek and Fiona would act. Well, that’s great. That covers about the first ten to fifteen minutes of the movie.
The rest. The rest falls under “a man wrote this.”
The first time I watched this movie, I fast forwarded. I cringed. I muted. The last time I watched this movie, I forced myself not to do any of those things. I cringed. I felt extremely uncomfortable.
The ultimate result of Shrek’s deal with Rumple is that no one remembers him. He never rescued Fiona. And oh, in order to right everything, he’s got 24 hours to share true love’s kiss with her. 24 hours to find true love with a woman who doesn’t even know he exists.
This goes about as well as you can expect given the choices that they made with Shrek’s character. First he tries to explain himself, badly. And is told to leave her alone by Fiona herself. Second, he invades her private domain to try and woo her. And is again, told to leave her alone by Fiona herself! Third he tries to connect with her while fighting and proves just how bad he is at any sort of bladed fighting. That doesn’t go so badly but I don’t care at this point because she’s told him twice now to keep his distance and he’s not respecting that. Fourthly, he follows her around on their mission and yeah, let’s just, sigh. Stop! Shrek, STOP! She ends up blaming him for the mission going badly. (When her horrible recon was horrible and the trap was just that, a trap.) She tells him to stay away again and he still doesn’t listen until she proves to him that she doesn’t love him by giving him what he wants. It shouldn’t have had to get that far.
This is so very uncomfortable to watch. It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s not romantic. It teaches the lesson of every horrible romantic comedy (most of which are written by men) that if you’re persistent enough and disrespect a woman over and over and over, she’ll eventually fall in love with you anyways. It reinforces again, that a woman’s “no” means nothing when said to a man.
It does not work like that. To see this in a movie aimed at children ages 8 and up horrifies me. Is this really the lesson that we want to teach our little boys and girls? That a boy doesn’t have to listen or respect a girl’s rejection because of ‘true love.’ That true love is a little boy stalking a girl.
No. No. No. No. No. My god just writing that makes me feel ill.
Look, true love in 24 hours is a pretty tall order. Shrek knows that no one remembers him. Shrek is smart enough to be able to extrapolate that Fiona won’t remember him. There had to be a better way for Shrek to get close to her without leaning on romantic comedy tropes.
This series started out as a parody of all things fairy tale! This was a perfect opportunity to parody romantic comedies.
Instead, they played it straight.
Instead, again, we have horrible messages about true love and not respecting a woman’s boundaries, or accepting a rejection. You know how we try to teach our children to use their words. Well, what’s the use of teaching them to use their words if society is teaching little boys that they don’t have to listen to little girl’s words.
Nowhere in this franchise is it more apparent that this is all about Shrek. Fiona’s will and wishes and agency never mattered. Even when she’s a bad ass ogress fighter trying to take back her kingdom with an army of ogres for the good of everybody, Shrek doesn’t listen to her. He doesn’t respect her wishes and will. It’s like the ending of Shrek 2 never happened where he asked her what she wanted.
It makes me uncomfortable, sick to my stomach and want to weep. It was all so unnecessary for the sake of money. No cookie.
Big Explosion. Oh Shit moment. Eh. Not really. Nothing that sticks in my mind at least. I mean, the closest we got to an oh shit moment is the thought about what the Piper is going to do to the ogres. And they kind of ruin that. No Cookie.
I guess the fights were good? I mean, they were okay. They set up Fiona to be a good fighter and then never used it. So, I’m really on the fence here about how entertaining it is when you start something and then don’t follow through. Half a cookie.
When it comes to Fiona’s character, Shrek Forever After feels like the team sat down and went “We’ve never utilized Fiona’s fighting skills. Look at Merida from Brave! We need to make Fiona an actual warrior!” And then decided on this whole half baked plot about Shrek making a deal and him never rescuing Fiona and the whole world was reset because at the end of Shrek 3 everything was good. And then, as I said above, outside of a mock battle with Shrek, they never followed through on Fiona’s fighting skills in this story either! They showed us that Fiona was an army leader who is respected by her followers. And then drop her right back into the damsel in distress role by the end of the movie who has to be saved by Shrek. So, why bother? There are no other main character women in this movie. Fiona’s it. And she’s not a character at this point, she’s a plot device. No cookie.
The one thing I really liked about this movie was the world building with the ogres. With Shrek being a solitary hermit with daddy issues, we didn’t know much about the ogres in general. Now we know that Shrek isn’t actually that typical for his kind. It turns out that Shrek doesn’t really know much about his own kind. I wish that all this ogre world building had been in another movie. Because, in this one, it’s rather wasted. There were so many cute characters and hints of a culture that was never realized because we were too focused on Shrek and his inability to respect boundaries. They could have even figured out a way to keep the stuff with the witches. Half a cookie for effort.
Shrek Forever After is such a disappointing movie. The plot was horrible. They started things and never followed through with characters and settings. One cookie.